Tag Archive | "Plate Appearances"

The Kansas City Royals Did Not Lose The Trade

The Kansas City Royals trounced the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. We got to watch Wil Myers play. Which brings up the one thing that will always be associated with Myers to baseball fans and especially KC baseball fans. The trade.

JamesShields

The common wisdom about the James Shields for Wil Myers trade was that The Royals were making a huge mistake. Without any of the players yet to have played for their new teams, it was deemed a failure for Kansas City. It was also immediately speculated that the only reason Dayton Moore even made the trade was to save his job by throwing away the future to squeak out a .500 season.

Here is a Yahoo Sports article that came out immediately after the trade that heralded it as a failure for The Royals. Now I also cringed when the trade was made. More for what Myers could be plus I had to watch Jeff Francoeur start another season (without realizing at the time the blessing of his release was in the future). I remember before the trade saying that if they were to do it, Matt Moore better be in the package. But as we all know now he wasn’t. It was James Shields with Wade Davis thrown in.

So now as we’re over three-fourths of the way through the season, with only a little over a month  left, I wanted to look at what has transpired and what is possible for the rest of the season. While looking over the evidence it occurred to me, so far this trade hasn’t been that bad for the Royals. I want to use the doom and gloom of the Yahoo article to compare to what has happened and to come to this conclusion:

It may turn out to be a good trade for the Royals for these reasons:

Wil Myers is not Mike Trout (yet)

Myers hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 homers with 140 strikeouts in 591 plate appearances at Class AA and AAA. He’s a blue chip prospect who turns 22 on Monday. Myers might turn into Ryan Braun. He also might turn into Josh Willingham, which would be OK for the Rays. Or he possibly could flame out like Joe Charboneau. If he’s like Braun, Royals fans will rue his loss for 20 years. And then into eternity after he retires.  – Yahoo

And yes that is all true. All of those different random things could happen, but none of it has happened yet. Including this year, Myers first full year in baseball. Can you imagine the pain we would have felt if he did what Trout or even Harper did last year? Of course rookie years mean nothing, as even Ken Griffey Jr had a rough rookie year. But at least he has not torn the league apart yet like those guys have. This year he is hitting .302/.356/.472 with 9 homeruns. Many players on The Royals are trumping that.

Not only is he not better than Trout or Harper, he’s barely better than Lough

Francoeur was the obvious replacement player for Myers. But since baseball is a beautiful game, David Lough has stepped up and surprised everyone in right field. With Myers’ aforementioned slash, he has a WAR of 2.o. Lough, comparably, has a WAR of 1.8 regardless of his weaker slash of .287/.307/.408. How is he doing it? With phenomenal defense. Those paying closer attention to the stats will see that with a strong final month of the season, Lough could steal the Rookie of the Year award away from Myers. How good will that feel to KC?

Plus, with Lough being a rookie, who’s to say he can’t continue to improve and put up a career comparable to Myers?

The Underrated James Shields

Shields has pitched 14 complete games, has six shutouts and has 448 strikeouts over the past two seasons. That’s all great, but his career 3.89 ERA is barely above-average in quality, and he’s logged 1,454 2/3 innings, which is a little concerning. He’s not as good as David Price, and he probably won’t be as good as Matt Moore going forward. The Royals are getting the Rays’ third-best pitcher.  –Yahoo

I don’t care his record is 8-8. I don’t care his ERA is a respectable 3.22. I don’t care his WHIP is a respectable 1.27. What I care about is he is an innings machine and has done this over 181 innings. Which is why his WAR is 2.9. I don’t get why this is hard for people like the author of the Yahoo article to understand. It’s like when you do cardio at the gym. You can get your heart rate up to 160 for 10 minutes. That’s good and all, but if you can sustain a lesser 140 heart rate for 40 minutes, you are getting a better workout. His WAR in 2012 was 3.9. 2011 was 4.5.

Shields is the 140 heart rate for 40 minutes pitcher. And yes, he is an ace.

Shields May Re-Sign

Though he is due $9 million in 2013 and a $12 million team option in ’14 — very reasonable — Shields will be a free agent after that and the Royals are a small-market team, if you hadn’t heard. If they are to make use of his skills and what he represents, they’ll have to make the playoffs in the next two seasons. They have not done so since 1985. Kansas City has finished with one winning record this millennium, in 2003.  –Yahoo

The Yahoo article contradicts itself. It warns to be careful of decline from Shields because of the amount of innings under his belt, but claims he is entitled to a large contract in spite of his innings count. Regardless, I consider Shields to be about the same level as Gil Meche when he signed with KC. Shields seems to be happy in KC and has made comments about resigning.

So on the surface, The Royals get him for 2 years. But this can be like McGwire trade for The Cards. Where it was for a few months, but turned into the rest of his career. Don’t take the Shields-for-two-years talk as gospel. He could easily be a Royal in 2015. Especially if they keep winning.

The Royals need a .500 season

Everything about that sentence kills me. It’s not the way I look at the game. You either win or you don’t. You either make the playoffs or not. But since The Royals haven’t been .500 in ten years and haven’t made the playoffs since 1985, this may be the exception to the rule (along with The Pirates).

The Royals are a black hole of signing players. It’s been widely reported that they are one of the teams players just don’t want to go to. A big reason is their history of losing. A .500 season, as this year may bring, would be good for both the fans and the future. And may be worth bringing Shields in alone.

Davis is not as bad as everyone says.  Odorizzi, on the other hand…

But funnily enough, you just hear people complain about Davis. Yes Davis is just okay. 6-10 with a 5.67 era. But the amount of innings he’s thrown is impressive. His FIP is much lower though. Opponents BABIP is ridiculously high against him to the point where it should be taken with a grain of salt as an outlier. And his WAR is still 1.5.

Odorizzi however, for The Rays, has an era of 6.00, a WHIP of 1.44 and has generally been crushed. Yet the media just talks about Davis.

The Royals Need To Win Games, Not The Trade

Even if Myers takes off, Lough regresses and Shields leave The Royals, it doesn’t matter if the The Royals can end over .500 and do something next year. Kansas City needs a shot at the playoffs. The Royals need a World Series. Myers could be the next Ted Williams. The Royals could have let the next Williams go. But keep in mind, Ted Williams never won a World Series. But with Shields and the talent shown in the second half by The Royals, it could all be worth it next year.

Because prospects come and go, but flags fly forever. And the trade being a failure for The Royals is still just wild speculation.

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With Wong Promotion, Cardinals Go All In

After Thursday’s thrilling walk off win, the Cardinals continued to make the future the present, by promoting second baseman Kolten Wong from Triple-A Memphis. The latest pull from the club’s minor league talent pool is sure to spark an immediate debate about who should be in the daily starting lineup (a la Matt Adams), but what’s for certain is that the club is completely committed to putting its absolute best talent into this pennant chase much sooner than later.

K_Wong

It has not been John Mozeliak’s style to pull prospects into up and to have them not contribute. But already this week, the club has promoted top pitching prospect Michael Wacha to bolster the bullpen, and has already flirted with Carlos Martinez in a similar role, and he’ll most likely return to that capacity when the rosters expand in a few weeks. On the heels of the team’s non-involvement in recent trade deadline, it has become clear that the team is going all in on using its system to add what’s needed, and will be pulling as much of its top talent as possible to the 25-man roster.

No matter how it is viewed, there are not 25 better players in the organization than Wong. The 2011 first round pick hit .303 in 412 at-bats in his first season in Triple A and made his second consecutive MLB Futures Game at the All-Star Game, all while clearly being in a holding pattern due to the success of Matt Carpenter at second base.

And while he is clearly qualified and ready to be with the Cardinals, the timing is curious for a variety of reasons, mainly because there still isn’t a clear route to him regularly contributing to the team…or is there? While Carpenter has not relented, David Freese has continued to yield more and more grasp on his everyday value to the team. In 391 plate appearances, Freese has hit six home runs on the season, which is just one more than Daniel Descalso has managed in 150 less opportunities in a utility role. Run in the fact that he is also due for an arbitration-mandated raise this winter, and it suddenly makes a lot of sense why Wong is here now.

Wong’s presence on the roster also adds a much needed boost to the depth of the team. While Adams has been a constant impact presence from the bench all year, the team has struggled to find identity and consistent impact outside of its regulars mostly. Wong will give Mike Matheny a similar flexibility that Wacha can bring to the bullpen: a flex option that can put higher level of available talent at all times.

A regular bench of Adams, Descalso, Wong, the backup catcher (Johnson or Cruz) and the returning Shane Robinson makes for much better strategic usage of the full roster throughout later games. The fact that Yadier Molina will be on a managed time schedule for the remainder of the regular season will also factor into the caliber of lineup options that are available, further the need to have as much impact possible spread around the rest of the lineup as well. The less than thrilling 7-8-9 combination of Johnson, Kozma and the pitcher spot showed that having more offense punch available is a must. And as this week’s matchups with the Pirates have proven, the entire roster maybe needed to win on a day-to-day basis, let alone series and season.

While the long-term implications of the presence of Wong on the roster are clear and unavoidable, in an immediate sense, his presence is just as strategic as it is symbolic. Time will tell, in an immediate sense, just how that strategy plays out.

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Triple Play: Domonic Brown, Justin Upton, Wainwright Walk Watch

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. This week, we turn our focus to an outfielder finally meeting expectations, a one-time red-hot slugger who has cooled WAY off, and more – including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. Off we go:

ChrisDavis

Who’s Hot?

Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies finally are finding out what Brown can do for them. In what is becoming a dismal slog of a season in Philadelphia, Brown has been the brightest spot. After a scorching two-week stretch, during which he hit .400/.423/1.060, Brown has taken over the NL home-run lead with 16 (along with 40 RBI). Many fantasy analysts are saying “it’s about time,” but it’s easy to forget that Brown is just 25. During auditions in the 2010-12 season, Brown was never given much of a chance to get comfortable, never compiling more than 212 plate appearances in a season. Here, in early June, Brown has already exceeded that total and has entrenched himself as an everyday player for the Phillies. I do wonder, though, if the power binge is sustainable. Brown became the first player to hit at least 10 homers and draw zero walks in a calendar month. That tells me that the plate discipline isn’t quite there yet. Pitchers will adjust to Brown’s power stroke, and then he will need to adjust to them. Also, Brown has stolen only four bases so far this season. For a player with above-average speed, as Brown possesses, that number needs to improve. However, fantasy owners shouldn’t complain too much yet. This month-long surge has allowed Brown to meet or exceed most season projections for Brown that I have seen. It’s always a welcome surprise for fantasy owners when a late-round pick like Brown can offer them more than they expect. It will be interesting to see how much more he can deliver this season for Phillies fans and fantasy owners.

Who’s Not?

Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves

It’s always hilarious to read baseball articles making “bold” proclamations – in April. I recall one such article, in which Atlanta’s front office was lauded for fleecing the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Justin Upton trade. The article mocked Arizona for trading away a superstar player for what amounted to spare parts. I didn’t agree with that article at the time – and I still don’t. Arizona traded from a position of strength – outfield talent – to shore up areas that were weak (infield, pitching). For the season’s first month, it may have looked like a monumental blunder – Upton smashed 12 home runs and won the NL Player of the Month award, but look now. Upton launched just two long balls in May and has fallen into a ghastly slump. Including his three-hit day Sunday against Washington, Upton has hit only .175 over his past 10 games with no homers, one lone RBI and two steals. He may still be on pace to hit 40+ home runs, but the projected RBI total is now below 90. Stolen bases? Forget them. He’s on pace to pilfer just 12 bases. Are those the numbers of a mega-star outfielder? Arizona obviously didn’t think so. Atlanta fans may have thought they were the beneficiaries of a modern-day Brock-for-Broglio trade, but the numbers say otherwise. Fantasy owners may want to send out some feelers to see what they could get for the junior Upton brother, but don’t sell low. He’s not as good as he was in April, but he’s also not as bad as he was in May.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: ..305/.361/.527, 10 HR, 34 RBI, 38 runs, 0 SB
Player B: .319/.392/.529, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 31 runs, 2 SB

Player A is Evan Longoria of the Rays. Player B is Oakland’s Josh Donaldson. As you can see, their stats are very similar. Longoria, of course, was a high draft pick in fantasy leagues, despite a lengthy injury history. Donaldson was, um, not a high draft pick, due to a history of not being a very effective player. Look at them now. Longoria is on pace for 30 HRs, 100 RBI, close to 100 runs scored – all numbers of an elite fantasy third baseman. Donaldson is on a similar pace in those three categories. Is this to say that Donaldson is Longoria’s equal as a player? Well, no. Longoria has established a track record as one of the best third baseman in either league. Donaldson, however, is in his age 27 season – when many a player enjoys his breakout season (incidentally, so is Longoria). Is it within the realm of possibility that the Donaldson we are seeing now is for real? Sure. It’s also within the realm of possibility (and much more likely) that Donaldson is on an extended hot streak, with a big regression coming. One positive on which to focus is that his walk rate is up, while his strikeout rate is down. That’s a sign of an evolving hitter, one who is providing his fantasy owners with more bang for the buck than Longoria. That is not to say Longoria has been a disappointment. On the contrary, given good health, Longoria could challenge his career-high numbers set in 2009. But fantasy owners paid for Longoria, whether it was with an early draft choice or big bucks at their fantasy auctions. Donaldson has been a revelation for fantasy owners thus far in 2013. The only question is if he will continue to be.

Player A: 17 saves, 31 strikeouts, 2.01 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 12.5 K/9 ratio
Player B: 22 saves, 41 strikeouts, 1.05 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 14.4 K/9 ratio

Player A is Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel. Player B is Jason Grilli of the Pirates. This is Exhibit A for why you should not use high draft picks or use big auction dollars on closers in fantasy baseball. Kimbrel was the clear-cut top closer (especially in NL-only leagues) coming into the 2013 season. Grilli was handed the closer’s job in Pittsburgh after Joel Hanrahan was traded to Boston. Prior to that, Grilli had a grand total of five saves in his career. So far this season, he is 22-for-22 in save chances, with 41 strikeouts in 25 2/3 dominating innings. Kimbrel, who has saved 17 games for the Braves, was the first closer off the board in two of my fantasy leagues; Grilli wasn’t drafted in my mixed league and was a late-round $1 pickup in the other (not by me, unfortunately). Now, is Grilli going to continue to be this untouchable for the entire season? Probably not. Relievers in their mid-30s don’t generally become shutdown closers. But you shouldn’t dismiss Grilli as a fluke, either. His WHIP and K/9 ratios have been excellent since joining the Pirates in 2011. Kimbrel should continue to excel as a closer, but that’s to be expected by his owners, who paid market value for his services. Grilli was a golden ticket plucked off the scrap heap. Once again, this is why it has become conventional wisdom to say “never pay for saves.”

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: all season long, we are looking at how many free passes the Cardinals’ ace is NOT issuing to opposing hitters. After his most recent gem of a start, a complete-game manhandling of the San Francisco Giants in which he allowed one run and struck out 10, here are Wainwright’s stats: 84 strikeouts, 6 walks, 2.33 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 8-3 record, three complete games in 12 starts. The 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is so far beyond ridiculous I can’t even quantify it. He’s on pace to walk 18 batters this season (or, as many batters as Jason Marquis walks in three starts).
  • The American League version of Wainwright is Oakland’s Bartolo Colon. Through 11 starts, Colon has walked only four batters in 11 starts (70 1/3 innings), albeit in about three fewer games than Wainwright. The thing is with the 40-year-old Colon: you just don’t know how much more he has in the tank. Can he hold up, or will he blow?
  • Follow-up to last week’s column: after the Rockies’ painful-to-watch loss to the Giants in extra innings on May 25, on Angel Pagan’s walkoff inside-the-park home run, I noted that Colorado has had a long history of letting such gut-wrenching losses affect them for days. That loss was no exception. The Rockies promptly lost the next game to the Giants (thereby losing the series), then followed that up by dropping three of four to the Quadruple-A Astros. They did manage to take two-of-three from the last-place Dodgers, but lost closer Rafael Betancourt to the disabled list.
  • Some baseball fans and analysts were pretty rough on the Nationals for their extra-TLC approach with Stephen Strasburg last season. Seems to me they should really be on their case this season for their bungled handling of Bryce Harper. After his collision with the Dodger Stadium outfield wall in mid-May, Harper should immediately have gone on the DL to allow his knee to heal. Instead, the offense-starved Nationals kept running him out there in hopes that he could spark the offense. Finally, Harper was placed on the DL last Saturday and we discover that he also was injured in another outfield-wall crash (in April against the Braves). If you’re going to coddle a prized pitcher with innings limits, shouldn’t you also take some precautions with a prized outfielder who is blossoming at age 20?
  • Garrett Jones of the Pirates becomes the second player (and the first in 11 years) to launch a home run into the Allegheny River on the fly. Distance measurement was an estimated 463 feet. Yowza.
  • Speaking of yowza, Chris Davis is on pace for 55 home runs, 150 RBI and 120 runs scored this season.
  • Who am I? I am the only regular active starter in the majors who has more walks than strikeouts. Despite this being only the second season in which I have made more than 6 appearances, I am developing a reputation as a me-first guy on a team that should have no “me” guys whatsoever (as reported by Ken Rosenthal). Who am I? I am Lucas Harrell of the Astros.
  • A day after Shelby Miller and Wainwright absolutely dominated the Giants and swept a doubleheader by a combined score of 15-1, the Cardinals are shut down by 62-year-old Chad Gaudin, who hadn’t started a game since 2009, when he played for the Yankees. Baseball is a really strange game sometimes.
  • As further evidence of this deep observation, I offer you the New York Mets. From the penthouse of a four-game, home-and-home sweep of the Yankees to the outhouse of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins. Gotta be tough to be a Mets fan these days.
  • Josh Hamilton is getting lots nominations for “worst free-agent signing” award. Here’s another candidate: Edwin Jackson. Since signing his $52 million-dollar deal with the rebuilding Cubs, E-Jax has put together a 1-8 record with a 6.29 ERA. The Cubs could have paid someone the major-league minimum salary to do that. I’d be willing to wager that thought has crossed Theo Epstein’s mind a time or two.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

Posted in Cardinals, Classic, I-70 Baseball Exclusives, RoyalsComments (0)

Royals/Angels: Three To Walk With

MikeMoustakas2
The Royals took two out of three against the Angels and now stand at 20-17, a game and a half back of the division leading Detroit Tigers. In the midst of a nine game road trip, the Royals will now head to Oakland to take on the A’s in a three game set. Here are three things we can take away from the series in Los Angeles (read: Anaheim).

1. Alex Gordon is raking: After going 6/13 with a double against the Angels, Alex Gordon has now posted a scorching hot  .357/.362/.571 line in 58 plate appearances in May.

2. Jeremy Guthrie is who we thought he was: We couldn’t have expected Jeremy Guthrie to win every start, but he certainly fun to watch, having gone nearly a half season’s worth of starts without registering a loss. It appears Guthrie has begun to regress to his career averages, but he’s still going to be a solid starter who will be able to eat innings and will pitch well enough to the Royals in the game and give them a chance to win.

3. It’s time to panic for Mike Moustakas: Struggling mightily coming into the series, Moustakas’ woes continued as he went 1/14 against the Angels, lowering his line to a meager .194/.266/.339 in 139 plate appearances this season. Moustakas hasn’t shown any signs to suggest that he’s going to figure it out anytime soon and the Royals front office should be thinking about other options at third base, if they aren’t already. I assume the front office would prefer to promote from within, so they might consider giving Anthony Seratelli a shot. Seratelli has put up a solid .326/.423/.516 in 111 plate appearances at AAA Omaha this season.

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Are Butler and Gordon Nearing Royalty?

We might be watching a #Royals team consisting of 2 of the best 5 players to ever don the blue and white for KC
@PCBearcat
Ross Martin

 

The tweet above was referencing Billy Butler and Alex Gordon, and more specifically their climb up the Kansas City Royals’ historical hierarchy. It led, as most thought-provoking tweets do, to a lengthy discussion about who are the ten best Royals ever, a debate which has no concrete resolution. While that discussion in itself can be fascinating, what I want to focus on today is whether Butler and Gordon really are on pace to join the all-time Royals greats, and what kind of production they’ll need to get there.

BillyButler

Maybe it’s because I so thoroughly enjoyed his barbecue sauce last night, but I’d like to start with Butler. In Royals history there are two very good comps for Butler in my opinion, Hal McRae and Mike Sweeney. Like Butler, both were doubles machines that were best suited to play DH. Since Butler has just crossed over 3500 career plate appearances, I thought we’d take a look at all three after approximately that much time with the Royals. It should be noted that while Sweeney’s career with the Royals also started at age 21, McRae was a 27-year-old that had spent four part-time seasons with Cincinnati. As a final disclaimer, I would place McRae in my top ten Royals of all-time while I believe Sweeney falls just short. Here is the production for the three up to this point in Butler’s career.

Sweeney McRae Butler
Doubles 187 219 219
Home Runs 123 74 106
RBI 521 446 495
OBP% .379 .362 .363
SLG% .501 .457 .466
OPS+ 123 128 123
WAR 18.0 15.7 11.8

As you can see, Butler matches up pretty well through approximately 3500 plate appearances with the main difference being the era that Sweeney played in and WAR.  Now let’s look at what Sweeney and McRae did over the next five seasons…

Sweeney McRae
Doubles 110 181
Home Runs 74 70
RBI 316 408
OBP% .353 .355
SLG% .476 .476
OPS+ 114 128
WAR 5.2 11.2

This takes us to the end of Mike Sweeney’s career with the Royals while McRae had four seasons left as mostly a part-time DH. While their raw numbers are fairly similar, McRae’s OPS+ accounts for the differences in era and the difference in WAR reveals how much time Sweeney spent on the DL. Both players saw a slight dip in their OBP% but McRae’s SLG% jumped while Sweeney’s lagged. Butler is at the beginning of his prime as a power hitter, which means we could see a slight dip in OBP% and an increase in SLG%, but I thought it would be interesting to look at how Butler would compare  like if he simply had five more seasons with similar statistics to his previous five. Here are the numbers for McRae and Butler in their Royals’ careers compared to what Butler’s numbers could look like five years from now:

Sweeney McRae Butler
Doubles 297 449 415
Home Runs 197 169 201
RBI 837 1012 923
OBP% .369 .356 .364
SLG% .492 .458 .470
OPS+ 120 125 125
WAR 23.2 27.6 22.4

What the chart above shows, I believe, is that Butler is on pace to be in this discussion for the best DH in club history, and one of the ten greatest Royals of all-time. The encouraging thing for Butler is that he is just at the beginning of his prime and could very well improve upon his numbers over the last five years. The final factor may well come down to winning. As you can see also see above, there is not much difference between Hal McRae and Mike Sweeney’s Royals’ career numbers. The difference is something you can’t see above, winning. If Butler matches these totals and the team loses another 450 games over the next five years I would say he’ll be looked at much more like Sweeney. If he leads this club back to the postseason for the first time since McRae was actually playing, there is little doubt he will be viewed amongst the Royals’ greats.

Comparisons are a little bit harder to find for Alex Gordon simply because he’s a very unique player. Offensively, Gordon does not have one skill that stands out but he’s seemingly “good” at everything. He’s not a base swiper on the level of Willie Wilson, he doesn’t have the power numbers of Danny Tartabull, but he has turned into one of the most valuable players in baseball because of his ability to do everything well. I’ve chosen two players to compare Gordon with, Amos Otis and Carlos Beltran. Otis is, in my book, a lock for the top ten Royals ever, while Beltran is just on the outside simply because he falls short in the areas of longevity and contributions to a winner. I stuck with the same statistics for this comparison but it bears mentioning that both Beltran and Otis were much more proficient base stealers than Gordon.

Beltran Otis Gordon
Doubles 137 142 189
Home Runs 108 75 85
RBI 465 367 337
OBP% .350 .353 .348
SLG% .478 .441 .441
OPS+ 109 124 113
WAR 22.3 21.4 19.1

At first glance it looks like Gordon is well behind Beltran after nearly 3200 at bats, but a quick glance at OPS+ shows that Gordon compares to his era just as well if not better. It also bears mentioning that both Beltran and Otis played for better offensive teams than Gordon ever has and played a more premium defensive position (at least for this portion of their careers) than does Gordon. Beltran played only another half season with the Royals before being traded to the Houston Astros, and in my book one reason he’s not amongst the Royals’ greats. Otis, on the other hand, still had his best offensive season ahead of him (1978) and spent another ten years in a Royals’ uniform. With Gordon likely to be much more expensive than Butler when he hits free agency, I’m only going to project him out until he’s no longer under club control. Here’s what his numbers could look like assuming he comes close to his production from the last two years.

Beltran Otis Gordon
Doubles 156 365 371
Home Runs 123 193 156
RBI 516 992 638
OBP% .352 .347 .356
SLG% .483 .433 .460
OPS+ 111 118 119
WAR 24.6 44.6 46.1

With Gordon being two years older it isn’t quite as likely that he maintains this level of production for the next four seasons, but I’m not sure he has to to pass Beltran and Otis. Of course, much like Sweeney, Butler and Beltran, Gordon has yet to sniff the postseason while Otis played in 22 postseason games in blue and hit .478 in the 1980 World Series. Otis also had three Gold Gloves at age 27 while Gordon has two at 29, but I think there’s a good chance Gordon catches him this season.

If there’s any conclusions I can draw from all of this it’s that:

A) Ross was spot on with his tweet last Sunday (although not quite as right as he was when he coined the nickname Country Breakfast) especially if either or both of these players finish their career in Kansas City.

and

B) Gordon is much closer to joining the greatest Royals of all-time than is Butler, which is something no one would have thought three years ago.

For arguments sake, my Top Ten Royals of All-Time read like this: George Brett, Willie Wilson, Amos Otis, Frank White, Bret Saberhagen, Kevin Appier, Hal McRae, Dan Quisenberry, Mark Gubicza, and Zack Greinke. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong below.

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Early Patience Is Encouraging For Hosmer

The Kansas City Royals are poised to turn a corner in 2013.  Eric Hosmer and his return to form would be a big part of that.

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars - copyright i70baseball

Photo courtesy of Charles Sollars – copyright i70baseball

In a dismal sophomore year for Eric Hosmer, there was an encouraging statistic that jumps out.  His power numbers took a big dip but he started to show patience at the plate and was able to increase his walks dramatically.  During his rookie campaign, Hosmer drew 34 walks and increased that number to 56 during the 2012 season.  Early on in Spring Training, he is showing good pitch selection once again.

It is hard to make much of Spring stats.  It is even harder to try to find something substantial about the stats this early.  The one thing that jumped out of the recent box scores to me was Hosmer drawing two walks and then drilling an RBI triple on Tuesday.

The two walks brings his Spring total to three, in eleven plate appearances.  His average is still low and, other than the triple, there are no extra base hits on his early record.  Still, he is driving in runs early, striking out less, and driving a higher on base percentage.  If he can translate that into his game come time for the regular season, the Royals and their fans will be very happy.

Hosmer’s power numbers will increase as his plate selection gets better.  Many fans are frustrated with the under performance from Hosmer last season and rightfully so.  The team is poised with a strong pitching staff to alter their makeup and show a willingness to win this season.  To get there, Hosmer will need to be a big part of it.

Patience will be the key to his season.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Adam Moore Trying To Make His Case

The Kansas City Royals have very few “up for grabs” spots in Spring Training.  Some players are going to have to really impress to crack the opening day roster this year.

Catcher Adam Moore is making an early attempt at impressing.

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Make no mistake, despite his soon to come departure to the World Baseball Classic, Salvador Perez is the Royals catcher and rightfully so.  However, the team has kept an open mind to who will travel with the team as his backup this season.  July of last year shows a waiver transaction that had the Royals claiming Moore from the Seattle  Mariners.  He would appear in four games last year and compiling only twelve plate appearances.

This Spring, Moore has appeared in three of the four games that the Royals have played.  He has shown consistent defense, which is his “calling card”.  A good glove, a strong arm, and a suspect bat.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Moore forgot that he was supposed to have a suspect bat.  Small sample size and over-analyzing Spring stats will lead you down a dark path, but what you can see is a player that is playing with passion.  In Monday’s 16-4 drumming of the Diamondbacks, Moore hit is second home run of the young spring.  In addition, he held his batting average at .500 (again, small sample size, he has six at bats).  He came into today’s action as a designated hitter, replacing Billy Butler in the process.

None of this means a whole lot at this point, but it does give Royals fans something to pay attention to.  There is currently no guarantee who will be the backup catcher in a little over a month when the team breaks camp but one thing is for sure: starting catcher Salvador Perez leaves the team this week to represent his country in the World Baseball Classic.  That will leave a lot of at bats, as well as a lot of time to get to know the pitching staff, to another player.  That player will gain the opportunity to seize a roster spot and prove to manager Ned Yost why he deserves to be on the team.

Adam Moore can put a strong grip on that spot if he simply continues to do what he is doing right now.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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The Cedeno Scenario

The St. Louis Cardinals reached an agreement to bring infielder Ronny Cedeno to the club yesterday. The 29 year old will be paid just over $1.1 million on a one-year deal, with a chance to gain another $800 in performance incentives as well. On the surface, it is a depth move; a chance to add a veteran presence to a club that has multiple questions about the condition of its middle infield. However, is there more to it than that?

Ronny  Cedeno

The team’s hand was forced nearly all of last year at shortstop. Rafael Furcal played a high volume of games by his standards (his 531 plate appearances were his most since 2009) in large part due to lack of comfortable depth behind him on the roster, and in the system at large. When he was finally curbed by a back injury, then finally by the elbow injury that seemed to necessitate surgery (but he has avoided to date), the team was forced to scramble to fill his void. Both Pete Kozma and Ryan Jackson were plugged into action, despite neither being considered a strong candidate for the fill-in. Jackson never really worked out, but Kozma rode a hot bat that made him a viable everyday option in September. He hit .333 in 72 at-bats, and played a serviceable shortstop.

However, the postseason brought out the inexperience in him on the highest level. His bat dipped to a .227 clip, much closer to the .232 total he managed during a full-season at Memphis. The moment admittedly also bore down on him as well, “the moment did get a bit big,” Kozma stated, when referring to the crunch of the playofss. Among those moments was a failure to act, ending up in the biggest infield fly rule debate, as well as a late game error in Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series that led to the game winning run.

Kozma’s return to Earth, when coupled with Furcal’s unknown health status, made the position a red-hot spot for debate on if the team would make a move for more security there.  General Manager John Mozeliak didn’t dispel these rumors either, stating as recently as this month at club’s Winter Warm-Up event that “We still have not ruled out any additions in the middle infield, if necessary”. Which was a sentiment apparently not understood by Kozma yet, who revealed it was a point of confidence of his that the team didn’t go outside the organization to make additions in the middle infield this winter.

That possibility became a reality just a bit over a week after he uttered that sentiment when the team added a journeyman in the style of Cedeno to the roster. It is a move that definitively ends any debate about who the top backup shortstop would be, as well as who would be the starter if Furcal is unable to go right away. With Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso and Ty Wigginton all presumptively on penciled into the Opening Day infield starter/bench scene, the perspective for the spring has to change for Kozma.

Most importantly, the signing put a final emphasis on the mission of the club to get make improvements where it could a year ago. While Cedeno, a career .249 hitter, will not be counted on to win games, he does give the team experience where it couldn’t find it a year ago. If anything, it reduces the risk of the cupboard being bare if Murphy’s Law does take up residence between second and third base at Busch.

It’s not the death sentence for Kozma, Jackson or even another move being made later, but it’s a clear sign that the organization isn’t leaving anything up to chance this summer.

CheapSeatsPlease

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What’s On Second?

Spring Training starts in about a month. Barring injury or a terrible performance, the Kansas City Royals lineup is pretty much set, except for second base. Like last year, Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella will compete for the job at second. But this year, Tony Abreu and Irving Falu could be in the mix as well.

ChrisGetz

Going into Spring Training, Getz is the likely favorite, despite an injury-filled 2012 and only playing 61 games at second. While the Royals praised Getz’s ability to drive the ball, he hit only 10 doubles, three triples and no homers with a .275/.312/.360 average and a 0.4 WAR in 210 plate appearances.

But the Royals were more concerned about his defense, where he had a .983 fielding percentage at second and a 4.43 RF/9. The league average fielding percentage was .983 and the league RF/9 was 4.63, making Getz a league average second baseman. If he keeps that up, he’ll be the Royals starting second baseman. If he stays healthy.

Many fans would like to see Johnny Giavotella at second, but so far he hasn’t done enough to win the job. He struggled last spring and started the season in AAA Omaha. He played 21 games with the Royals in May and June before coming back for good in August and September after Getz suffered a season-ending thumb injury.

In the Minors, Giavotella played well offensively, but needed work on his defense. But in 189 Major League plate appearances, Giavotella hit seven doubles, one triple and one home run with a .238/.270/.304 average and a -0.6 WAR. Giavotella played 45 games at second, with a .967 fielding percentage and a 4.23 RF/9. the league average fielding percentage was .983 and the league RF/9 was 4.63, which made Giavotella a below average second baseman. He’ll get an opportunity to win the second base job, but unless he starts hitting Major League pitching and his defense improves, Giavotella will start the season in Omaha.

Tony Abreu was a Spring Training non-roster invitee last year and got called up in August after the Royals released Yuni Betancourt. Abreu saw limited playing time, appearing in 22 games, 11 of those at second. In 74 plate appearances, Abreu hit two doubles, one triple and one home run with a .257/.284/.357 average and a -0.2 WAR.

With a small sample size of 11 games at second in 2012, it’s better to compare Abreu’s career playing second. In four seasons at second, Abreu has a .975 fielding percentage and a 4.59 RF/9. The league fielding percentage was .984 and the league RF/9 was 4.77, which at best makes Abreu a utility infielder. Seeing the most games Abreu played at second was 25 in 2007, the League tends to agree. If he makes the club, it will be as a utility infielder.

A possible dark horse at second is longtime Royals farmhand Irving Falu. In 24 games with the Royals last year, Falu played 14 of those games at second. In 996 games over his Minor League career, Falu played 315 of them at second. The most games he played in a season at second was 63 with Omaha in 2009, so even in the Minors, Falu was a part-time second baseman. He’ll get his opportunities in Spring Training, but it’s a long shot for Falu to make the Opening Day roster, much less as the Royals starting second baseman.

Second base was a weak position last year and it will be again in 2013. If the Royals can get league average offense and defense out of second, they’re in good shape, as far as second base goes.

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Here’s your chance, Johnny Giavotella

The Royals were likely to call up infielder Johnny Giavotella after the Omaha Storm Chasers season came to an end, but Chris Getz‘s season-ending thumb injury last week gives Giavotella the chance to see if he has what it takes to be a Major League second baseman.

During spring training, a lot of fans expected (and hoped) Giavotella would make the opening day roster. But on March 25 Giavotella was optioned to AAA Omaha and Getz became the Royals second baseman. A lot of Royals fans and pundits were disappointed. But the Royals believed Getz’s defense was superior, his offense had improved and Giavotella needed more defensive seasoning in Omaha.

Giavotella did well in Omaha with a .331/.408/.504 line with five homers, 25 RBI and 152 plate appearances, playing second base. When starter Jonathan Sanchez went on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis, Giavotella joined the Royals May 9.

During his first stint with the Royals, Giavotella played 21 games and split playing time with Getz and Yuni Betancourt. He had an unimpressive .217/.260/.261 line with no homers and six RBI over 73 plate appearances, committing three errors at second base. Giavotella got more playing time at second when Getz went down with a rib injury May 16, but he still split playing time with Betancourt. The Royals sent Giavotella back down to Omaha June 12 when Chris Getz returned from the disabled list.

Giavotella returned to Omaha, ending up with a .323/.404/.472 line with 10 home runs, 71 RBI over 418 plate appearances. He played the majority of the games at second, committing six errors with a .983 fielding average. It appeared Giavotella would be a September call-up, if he was called up at all. Then last Friday, Getz broke his thumb during a bunt attempt and Giavotella was called up for last Saturday’s game against the White Sox.

Plans are for Giavotella to play five to six games a week at second base. So far, Giavotella’s five games since his return haven’t been impressive. His average over the last five games is .167/.211/.167 with three base hits, no RBI with six strikeouts and no walks. In other words, he’s in the lineup, but not really contributing. Of course this is a small sample size and there’s hope his offensive numbers will improve as he gets more playing time.

But what about Giavotella’s defense at second base? To be honest, his defensive numbers this season haven’t been impressive either, with a .949 fielding percentage and a 3.65 RF/9. Compare that to Getz’s .983 fielding percentage and 4.43 RF/9. Even Betancourt had a .975 fielding percentage and a 4.61 RF/9, and we all know how bad an infielder he was. The league average fielding percentage at second base is .983 and the league RF/9 is 4.62. In other words, all three players are just near or below league average. One is no longer with the team (Betancourt), another is out for the year (Getz), and the one who’s left (Giavotella) is below league average in both categories.

Some Royals fans would like Giavotella to be the second baseman of the future and take Getz’s place. But to be fair, Getz played well with a .275/.312/.360 average and only committed four errors at second, despite having an injury filled season. And since Getz is not going to be a free agent until 2015, he’s probably going to be competing for a second base job in 2013, along with Giavotella.

Unless Giavotella has an injury, he’s going to be the Royals second baseman for the rest of the season. And even if his offense improves, his defense will decide if the Royals think he’s their second baseman of the future. Giavotella is being given a chance. It’s up to him to make the most of it.

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